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WAMU 88.5’s Fred Fiske to retire after 64 years on Washington radio
Legendary broadcaster “packs it all in” and offers his final commentary on the eve of his anniversary

Fred Fiske has a laugh in the studio with Willard Scott.
Fred Fiske has a laugh in the studio with Willard Scott.

WAMU 88.5’s senior commentator Fred Fiske will retire after 64 years in radio in Washington, and more than 30 years on air at WAMU.

In his final commentary, Fiske reflects on three meaningful moments from his life, each – coincidentally – falling on the same date: September 27. September 27, 2011 marks his 64th anniversary on the airwaves in Washington, “and the date in which I pack it in. This is my final program,” he said in his signoff. “Thanks to WAMU, thanks to my wife, Sandy, thanks to you – it’s been a wonderful ride.”

Fiske, 91, who has served as WAMU 88.5’s senior commentator since the 1990s, got his start in radio as a child actor in the 1930s. Following college, he put his radio career on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps. During World War II, he served as an aerial gunner and radio operator in the 8th Air Force, flying in 30 missions over France and Germany under squadron leader Colonel Jimmy Stewart, and bringing home a Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.

After his discharge from the Air Force, studying at Columbia University, and a stint teaching high school in his native New York, Fiske came to Washington in 1947 and began working as an announcer at Mutual Broadcasting System’s WOL radio, which later became WWDC. He served as a presidential announcer and veteran affairs commentator for Mutual Broadcasting, providing live coverage of the inaugurations of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and other political events.

During the 1950s, Fiske hosted a midday pop music program at WWDC, playing top hits and interviewing recording artists, a formula which made him Washington’s highest-rated music host. He also wrote a weekly newspaper column called “Fiske’s Discs.”

In 1977, Fiske came to WAMU 88.5 from WWDC, where he had most recently been host of Empathy, then the only talk radio program in the city. At WAMU 88.5, the program was renamed The Fred Fiske Show, and aired five nights a week until 1987, when it moved to Saturday mornings and became Fred Fiske Saturday.

“For more than 60 years, Fred Fiske has brought lively, thought-provoking conversation to Washington radio, and his familiar voice and his trademark honesty will be missed,” said Caryn G. Mathes, General Manager of WAMU 88.5. “I am grateful to him for spending so many years of his storied career here, and wish him well as he leaves the airwaves.”

Fiske will be honored at WAMU 88.5’s 50th anniversary gala as a station founder on Oct. 29.

American University’s radio station since 1961, WAMU 88.5 is the leading public radio station for NPR news and information in the greater Washington, D.C., area. With more than 735,000 listeners in the Washington-Baltimore region, WAMU 88.5 is where “the mind is our medium.” WAMU also broadcasts from 88.3 Ocean City on the Delmarva peninsula and in Washington on three HD channels — the flagship frequency at 88.5–1; WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, a bluegrass and Americana station, at 88.5–2; and WAMU–3, at 88.5–3, a news and information station broadcasting international coverage from the BBC and offering public radio programs unavailable elsewhere in the Washington area. For more information, visit wamu.org.

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